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New Strait of Belle Isle ferry experiences nearly week-long delay

The MV Qajaq W was unable to make a crossing Feb. 9-14 due to inclement weather.
The MV Qajaq W was unable to make a crossing Feb. 9-14 due to inclement weather. - Contributed

L’Anse au Clair mayor says new boat not at fault, cancellations a product of Mother Nature

STRAIT OF BELLE ISLE, N.L.

It’s been a difficult first month for the MV Qajaq W.

For nearly a week, the new passenger ferry that went into service for the Strait of Belle Isle on Jan. 27 was stranded due to bad weather.

From Saturday, Feb. 9-14, the weather was such that the MV Qajaq W was prevented from making a single crossing across the Strait of Belle Isle.

For the first four days the ferry had to remain in St. Barbe due to high winds.

On Wednesday, Feb. 13 the weather cleared but ice conditions kept the vessel — which was without the service of an icebreaker that day — tied up in St. Barbe.

Cartwright - L’Anse au Clair MHA Lisa Dempster posted on Facebook that she was working with Transportation and Works Minister Steve Crocker to organize flights for stranded passengers.

Some 30 individuals made it across the Strait that day.

The following day, the wind picked up again and the ferry was stranded once again.

It was finally able to make a crossing when the weather cleared on Friday, Feb. 15.

L’Anse au Clair Mayor Chad Letto says these types of delays are expected given the harsh weather conditions during the winter months.

“What can anybody do? You can’t fight Mother Nature,” he told The Northern Pen.

He felt it was a “bit of a blunder” that coast guard changed shifts on Wednesday, when they knew there’d be a break in the weather.

But he was appreciative of the efforts of MHA Dempster and Minister Crocker in helping stranded travellers fly across the Strait.

Letto says the delays do have an impact on businesses and services.

“We’re at the mercy of it,” he said. “Store shelves are starting to get empty, no one has gotten their mail in over a week, and (it’s difficult for) people trying to conduct business in the region.”

Letto doesn’t think the Qajaq W is the problem in this situation.

“The Qajaq W is a beautiful ship,” he said. “She’s just as tough as the MV Apollo in the ice, and the fuel efficiency helps the province out.

“I think as time goes on people will warm up to (the ship).”

stephen.roberts@northernpen.ca

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